When I was a teacher, I had a tremendous amount of autonomy in the classroom, and I treasured that. Today, I hear from teachers all the time who share with me their frustrations about not having the ability to make decisions concerning students. I understand their concerns and I share them. Although we make many policy decisions at the state level, I believe that the decisions about putting policy into action should take place as close to the students as possible.
That’s why I’m really pleased that Governor Chafee has called together a 17-member Educator Autonomy Working Group, whose charge is “to make specific recommendations on ways we can provide more flexibility for teachers, principals, and superintendents in order to improve the learning experiences to all Rhode Island students.”
The group held its kickoff meeting
this week (December 3). We will meet monthly, and in June we will bring to Governor Chafee a set of recommendations for action.
The two Working Group co-chairs, Milken Educator Award winner Yanaiza Gallant and our 2014 Rhode Island Teacher of the Year, Patricia Page, set the tone for the meeting with their opening remarks.
“All too many times, I’ve had the notion that my hands are tied,” Yanaiza said. “I’m excited that we’re coming together here to start talking about how we can let those closest to students become innovative for kids.”
“I see in education right now a landscape that’s fertile for us to bring forth system changes in terms of autonomy,” said Patricia. “The question is: How do we make autonomy meaningful and make certain it is sustainable in the education environment?”
I know we’re off to a great start! The next meeting of the Working Group is scheduled for Monday, January 6, at 4:30 p.m., at the R.I. Department of Education, Room 501, 255 Westminster St./80 Washington St., Providence. All meetings of the Working Group will be open to the public, so please feel free to join us.